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THE POLITICS OF PRESENTING AND ACCEPTING

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

As they are every year, producers Gil Cates and Michael Seligman are concerned about long-winded winners and those who want to use Oscar as a politcal platform.
The longest acceptance speech on record was a 61/2-minute diatribe by Greer Garson, who won Best Actress for Mrs. Miniver in 1943. The shortest was by Joe Pesci, who won as Best Supporting Actor in 1991 for Goodfellas. He said: “It was my privilege. Thank you.”
This year winners are limited to 45 seconds. At the annual pre-Oscar luncheon, Mr. Cates announced that he is offering a high-definition TV set to the most succinct winner at Sunday’ s ceremony. “I’ve tried to be charming and humorous,” Cates told nominees. “I’ve tried persuasion and bribery. It all comes down to my belief that brevity is next to godliness.”
Mr. Cates also said he will not allow presenters to make political statements that are not relevant to the proceedings. However, he said winners can use their 45 seconds as they wish.
Babbling on is a time-honored Oscar tradition. In 1950, before the ceremony was on TV, there were still endless thank-yous. Emcee Paul Douglas warned at the start of the show: “I’ll thank in advance all the writers, grips, hairdressers, cameramen, front offices and producers. … And we’ll also assume that without your mother the whole thing might not have been possible. Just thank your lucky stars, the voters and no one else.”
The longest Oscar show in history was in 1999, when the show ran a seemingly endless 4 hours and 5 minutes. Mr. Seligman has his own plan to encourage terseness. “If Gil Cates’ offer doesn’t help, I’m going to tell (musical director) Bill Conti to start playing.”